Saturday, September 24, 2011

Milwaukee Race Trip Report

Full discloure-This is just a copy/paste from a post I made back in June.I wrote this in response to many of the negative posts that were going on after the Milwaukee race.

A first timer's experience at the mile (track/trip report)

I know attendance was not good and I know several people have complained about the promoters and the policies and the later reversal of policies by the people running the race.

I just wanted to share my personal experience. In summary, I had an amazing time and did not experience any of the issues that others are referring to. Grant it, I was not planning on taking a cooler or food/drinks in and I wasn't planning on tailgating; so admittedly the no cooler rule and no pass out rule (which was later reversed) didn't really affect or bother me.

I never felt gouged by the prices; I really don't understand where that is coming from. I don't expect things to be free. Sure it would be nice, but again not really a realistic expectation in my opinion. 

I felt the entire event was very fan friendly with lots of options and things to do. I have no experience in promotion or marketing, but just based on the low attendance, I would say the efforts could have been stronger. 

Anyhow, as a first timer, I travelled up from Indy with my 6 year old son on Saturday. We arrived in the afternoon and parked at gate 7 for free. We walked under the tunnel not knowing what to expect. It was fun to see the chairlift overhead and to catch our first glimpse of the track (turn 4). I had purchased a general admission ticket off the website earlier and my son (being under 12) was free. We were greeted by a friendly ticket taker who scanned my ticket and we were inside the track in a matter of minutes with no hassles at all. We wandered around the concession area and were immediately taken in by the mile's charm. I loved the state fair feel and the festival atmosphere. We went back to the Indy fan village but didn't spend much time there because IICS quals were about to start. We entered the track and sat in the 300's section by the start/finish line. Yes, several sections were taped off/closed, but based on turnout that was not an issue at all. It was no different than a practice or quals day at Indy, in terms of only certain sections being opened.

We enjoyed quals and were basically cheering for anyone but Dario; so I was slightly bummed when he took pole. After quals, we went to walk around some more and get some food. I had a brat with Kraut from the Sheboygan Brat House and my son had a corn dog. After this we went back to the Fan Village and this was my only real complaint of the evening. Upon walking back there after quals, we were greeted to the announcement that the fan village was now closing. Again, that was my one beef with the weekend. Why close the fan village at 6:00 when the track action continued until 8:30? Anyhow, it by no means ruined our day; I mean is it even possible to have a bad day at the track? 

We then headed back to the stands for the midget race. The midget race (for me) was not that entertaining and the starts were as ugly as some of the Indycar starts. I don't remember exactly, but I think they waved off the first two starts; they waved off at least one start.

We also stuck around for the Silver Crown race. Now, the SC was very entertaining! Brownsburg IN's Bobby East drove the wheels off his car. I never did hear what he was penalized for, but during a yellow he was the leader and was penalized and sent to the back of the field. Anyhow know what the penalty was for? He then managed to drive from last to first and my son and I cheered for every pass! My son is now a Bobby East fan; he couldn't stop talking about that race the whole way back to the hotel.

We were staying by the airport, and raceday morning we woke up and went to mass at a church by the hotel. After church, we noticed the sky did not look promising, but we headed to to the track. It was an easy 20 minute drive. As we approached the National Drive exit, the rain started falling and falling hard. We were planning on going back to gate 7, but since it was raining so hard, I figured there was no need to enter the track yet. I decided to pull over and wait to see what the weather would do. We took National Avenue to 84th street and we were just driving up 84th street looking for something to do. I just randomly came upon Johnny V's cafe. We pulled into the parking lot to wait for the rain to stop and I asked my son if he was hungry. He was; so we decided to have an early lunch. Johnny V's was awesome. I had the Victor Burger and it was one of the best hamburgers I have ever had. My son had the pancakes. The food was great and the portions were huge. The cafe will be on my must stop list the next time I'm in Milwaukke; I get the feeling the place is a local institution; it was packed, but service was great and fast.

By the time we finished lunch the rain had stopped, and we drove the .5 mile to the track. Again, we parked in gate 7 (just because I was familiar with it from the day before). We had to pay $10 this time, but again I didn't have a problem with this. You pretty much have to pay to park at any sporting event, even minor league baseball, etc. Track drying efforts were under way; so we returned to the fan village (which was open this time). Graham Rahal was doing a fan q and a. Someone asked about the random draw at TX and Graham refreshingly (imo) said he didn't think it was a big deal and he thought people were making too big of a deal out of it. This brought a few cheers from the crowd. I was surprised he said this since he Gannasi and Dario have been so vocal about it. After that, my son tried to catch a free t-shirt from Firehawk, but we didn't get one. We did get to sit in the verizon race simulators; I was kind of surprised that the racing game was not an Indycar game; since the simulators look like Indycars, but my son thought that it was cool anyway. We checked out the 2012 car again (we had already checked it out at Indy). We then wandered around some more and checked out the Milwaukee Bucks inflatable basketball game. My son won a Bucks bag by getting a baskey, which made his day.

We then headed headed to the stands. Again the track workers we encountered were friendly and helpful, and we had no issues. We had seats in section 301. I did notice that the sections were very light in attendance but it did not affect my enjoyment or the on track activity. We watched the lights race, which was a complete snoozer, but we weren't there for that race anyways.

My son is a TK and Helio fan. I was cheering for TK, RHR, Power and Graham (and anyone but Dario). My son loved the driver introductions, especially the giant flame throwers on the sides of the stage (what 6 year old doesn't love flame throwers!?).

I was bummed to see RHR hit the wall on the first lap. After that, we were both cheering hard for TK. We cheered hard when TK got the lead and later my son was in heaven when his two favorites (Helio and TK) were running 1-2. We were both heartbroken when TK lost it in 4. My son was teary eyed because TK crashed.

We were then bummed to see Helio have to pit for the tire issue. Also I am always amazed at races to see people around us without radios etc; I have no idea how they follow the race. The people behind us never knew who was leading or why Helio had to pit, etc. But since we were listening to the race radio broadcast on our headphones we filled them in during yellows, etc.

So, we were slightly bummed to see Dario take the checkers, but we still had a great time at the race. I couldn't help but notice the empty seats, but it didn't hamper my enjoyment or the great racing action. Everyone we encountered was friendly. I didn't feel that the parking, food, or ticket prices were that out of line, and I purchased tickets before the BOGO deal. Yes, I was kind of annoyed that the deal came out after I purchased my tickets, but things happen and I moved on.

We stuck around for the start of the Star Mazda race just to see what it would be like and then we grabbed dinner before making the drive back to Indy. I had the Irish Beef Sandwich and homemade chips from the Irish pub behind the stands (I forget the name), and it was delicious. My son had a corn dog. 

Anyhow, the attendance worried me because I enjoyed the race so much and i really want to return. If the mile is on the schedule next year, I definitely want to return! I will also bring my wife and other son next year as well. The state fair atmosphere adds to the charm and combine that with terrific on track activity and the history of the place and it is a great experience for any racing fan.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share my experience. We had a positive and very fun day and I wanted to share that since other have been sharing some of their negative experiences and thoughts. Grant it, I never contacted the ticket office or promoters with any questions, but I also never had a need to do that. I found all the info I needed on the website. Also, this was the first time I attended the Mile; so I can't really compare it to how things were run in the past, but I had no complaints or issues (other than I would have liked a fuller house). 

I really hope the Mile returns! It is out of my hands now, but I did my part by buying tickets and attending.

Also in August my son and I will also be attending Mid Ohio for the first time; this will be my first road course that I have attended. I will try to share our experience with a TF post after that trip as well. I have attended over 20 Indy 500's plus races at KS, KY, and Milwaukee, but I have not been to a road course. So, I'm looking forward to checking out Mid Ohio in August.

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